Archive for June 2010
It is tempting to believe that whichever way you have decided to reuse rain or graywater, that you are saving at least as much water as you are placing in the garden.
Over the years, several methods of reusing graywater, based on mulch basins, have become popular. The sad fact is that simply placing graywater into a mulch basin surrounding a tree (a mulch basin is basically a big hole around the tree covered in mulch) isnt very efficient at all.
If you put 10 gallons of water into this mulch basin, it will have the same effect as using 5 gallons of tap water into the hole at a more measured pace. Yes you have saved 5 gallons of tap water (because you ddn’t need to supplement with tap water), but you could have saved 15 gallons of tap water by using the 10 gallons of graywater to greatest effect.
The following discussion is focussed on graywater reuse, however the same principles apply for rainwater reuse.
These are the commonly accepted methods of reusing untreated graywater:
- Branched Drain (or similar)
- Laundry to Landscape
- Gravity Dripperline
- Pumped Dripperline
Before going in to the pro’s and con’s of each method, the concept of how much water is actually saved needs to be understood.
If you put 10 gallons of water in one 4′ hole in the ground every day, you have not saved 10 gallons per day. In Tucson, Arizona, that hole only needs 12 gallons for the whole of July for medium water use plants.
If this was done daily, then 300 gallons has been irrigated over the month, instead of the required 12 gallons.
The actual amount saved is 12 gallons. The irrigation efficiency is 12/300 or 4%.
This may sound extreme, but I have seen quite a few branch drain systems set up this way (the rest of the water goes down into the subsoil and is wasted, unless trapped by clay in which case the roots of the plants may rot).
So while on the surface some methods may appear to be very inexpensive for the amount of water diverted, the amount of water actually saved needs to be reviewed.
Irrigation Efficiency Rates for Different Methods:
|Laundry to Landscape||40%|
The efficiency rates listed for branched drain and Laundry to Landscape methods are extremely generous, based on absolute best practice installation methods by highly experienced installers.
Cost / Benefit Analysis of the different methods.
After applying the irrigation efficiencies of the methods, determining how much potable water is no longer needed to irrigate the garden, these charts can now be presented.
If you would like the maths behind the following charts, please contact us via the contacts page for more information.
Cost vs Gallons of Potable Water saved over 5 years
Paid labour has been used for installation of all methods except for bucketing of water. A small amount has been added to the bucketing methods, for 1 chiropractic visit (this isnt a joke, it’s an onging issue in Australia).
While voluntary labor (you) can be used to reduce the cost, the efficiency of Branched Drain and Laundry to Landscape methods will typically halve. Those interested in installing their own Branched Drain network should go to our videos page and review the branched drain installation video (8 minutes)
Cost per gallons of water saved over 5 years use.
This chart illustrates how Dripperline irrigation is far more cost effective over 5 years (at about 0.5 cents per gallon) than even Laundry to Landscape at about 2.5 cents per gallon.
For more information about the pro’s and con’s of different graywater re-use methods, go to part 2 of this article http://www.besthomewatersavers.com/pages/Different-ways-to-reuse-graywater-%28part-2%29.html
The following is an article by Kenneth Davison, a senior journalist for ‘The Age’, a major daily newspaper for the city of Melbourne, Australia. It is a long article, but worth the read.
Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria, in south east Australia.
During the significant drought of the last 15 years, Melbourne’s water supplies dropped down to approximately 15% of reserves. The existing population of approximately 4 million is expected to almost double over the next 30 years. The desalination plant will only add 30% capacity, and by some estimates will only serve growth for the next 10 years.
I have added conversions / clarrifications in italics to assist non Australian readers. I have also bolded key points for speed readers. A list of you tube links is provided at the bottom of the article with interesting comments from officials / contractors etc.
May 31 / 2010
Victorians haven’t been told the full story on how much they could pay.
The Minister for Water, Tim Holding, has misled the electorate over the price of water from the Wonthaggi desalination plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 40 per cent of Melbourne’s water.
Two years ago the retail price of water was 85¢ a kilolitre (250 gallons) when the price reflected the cost of dam water of about 40¢ a kilolitre, so that the average household paid about $800 a year for its water. Now households pay about $1000, even though they are using less under restrictions.
Tim Holding told Parliament on November 26 last year that the ”net present cost of water” over the 30-year life of the contract with AquaSure would be $1.37 a kilolitre (250 gallons), which means the price of water to households after the retail mark-up would be $2.20 a kilolitre in 2012 for an annual water bill of $2000.
So, on Holding’s own say-so, the price of water will double – meaning that most low-income families won’t be able to maintain a garden.
But Holding (and the Brumby government) hasn’t been telling the full story. The day after Holding’s announcement in the lower house, Greens upper house member Greg Barber asked Treasurer John Lenders (who represents Holding in the upper house): ”I gather that the $1.37-per-kilolitre amount may just have been a mathematically derived figure. Can the Treasurer explain what it means in terms of the price of water?”
Lenders responded: ”While the question is probably more appropriate for the Minister for Water, it is certainly one that I will get an answer for him.”
And the result? Nothing! There is no record of a response in Hansard and no record of a written response to Barber, according to Barber’s office.
The Coalition parties have apparently taken Holding at his word. They have shown no interest in the simple arithmetic behind the real price of water and the grossly misleading statement by Holding.
They apparently believe the wholesale price of water is $1.37 throughout the 30-year life of the contract. If so, the subsidy from the Victorian taxpayer will be billions of dollars just for the wholesale price.
The latest official estimated capital cost of the borrowings to finance the desal plant is $5.1 billion. This money has to be serviced and insured against default because, according to ASIC records, AquaSure appears to be a $12 company. Holding has said the government no longer guarantees the debt, so it must have given a ”take or pay” guarantee to take the water.
But at what price? On the most conservative assumption, AquaSure will have to pay 10 per cent on its borrowings repayable over 30 years. This means the annual repayments on capital alone are $537 million a year, or $3.58 a kilolitre. In other words, the $1.37-a-
kilolitre payment that Holding announced to Parliament doesn’t even cover the cost of capital.
But there’s more. The plant will cost just over $200 million a year to run, based on paying the premium for renewable energy as specified by the government – by coincidence, similar to the $1.37 claimed as the total cost by Holding.
No wonder there has been no response to Barber’s question. A meaningful answer would have revealed the actual wholesale cost of water supplied with green energy would be $4.90 – almost four times higher than Holding told Parliament. This converts to a retail price of $7.90, meaning the average household water bill will be about $3000 after the desal water is mixed with the dam water.
The only possible way the government could get the wholesale desal price down to $1.37 a kilolitre is if the government and Aquasure have made a novation agreement whereby Aquasure has inflated the capital requirement to finance a kickback to the government (via a side agreement with Melbourne Water) in order to reduce the price of water reported to Parliament for the first few years. This payment would be recouped later in the contract. To clarify this possibility, the whole contract with the numbers should be made public.
The standard claim of the Liberal Party is that it is the best party to manage the state’s finances. The Greens are denigrated as environmentalists who can’t add up. At least the Greens are numerate enough to smell a rat and sufficiently courageous to point out the emperor has no clothes.
There are other big issues that haven’t been explained. Why was Chloe Munroe, former deputy secretary of Treasury – which approves public private partnership deals – and more recently the secretary of Holding’s department responsible for water policy and water trading, appointed as chairman of AquaSure after AquaSure won the tender?
Further, Munroe is a commissioner of the National Water Commission, which advises governments including Victoria’s on water trading, and more recently has been appointed to the board of Hydro Tasmania, which could sell water to Victoria more cheaply than AquaSure.
Munroe’s appointments represent fundamental conflicts of interest.
Kenneth Davidson is an Age senior columnist.
Youtube videos of interest:
Lead Contractor agrees construction cost is 4.8 billion, not 3.5 billion.
Promotional video by Thiess (Contractor)
Victorian Government project launch
Visit our websites:
View our videos:
It is fascinating to correlate states that have commenced water harvesting code development (graywater and rainwater) against their population growth rates.
Here is a chart (from google.com) showing population growth over the last 30 years for selected states:
So while the population growth for the US averages about 1% per year (over the last 30 years), California had 54% growth, and Arizona 132% growth!
While there is scope for saving water in existing homes – currently Tucson residents average over 140 gallons per day in personal water use, compared to 40 gallons per day personal water use in places such as Melbourne, Australia, it will not be an easy path.
Aggressive water saving initiatives within the home will help – water efficient appliances, showers, change in habits etc; in warmer states over approximately 60% of personal water use is external (ie irrigating the garden, washing cars etc.
At some point authorities will have seriously tackle the water issue. The US economy relies on real growth, not debt growth, and will falter unless infrastructure can support the growth.
Certainly politicians are beginning to take note, with attempts to promote water re-use, although once the code actually hits the ground competing interests fight for turf.
Water Purveyors do need to sit back and work out how they are going to support this growth without massive impost on the consumer. Several purveyors now find they do not want water to be saved at the home – they need every drop to fulfill water reclamation contracts (ie water treatment) that are already in place. Examples of this are parts of Nevada and Arizona. This would be fanatastic if the reclaimed water was being used sensibly, however in many cases the water is simply re-used on golf courses and sporting grounds.
Even if the re-claimed water is presented back to the home, the intial sales pitch was your home could now have a guaranteed supply of water for the garden, at minimal cost. So instead of encouraging home owners to conserve this reclaimed water, the water purveyor wants them to use as much as possible, so they can improve the bottom line.
Drainage enginners don’t want you to use less water, because they are concerned you will be too efficient and cause flushing issues within the sewer and storm networks. It would make sense to design new subdivisions with this in mind. As I mentioned in the previous post, common sense and reality dont always come together.
If you live in one of the states listed on the chart, I recommend visiting your local water purveyor, and ask how they plan to cope with growth for the next 30 years, based on the past 30 years. Let me know what you find out. The many dicsussions I have had across the country are worrying.
What we do know is there is no more water to be found in the Colorado basin. Even if global warming is a non event, there will not be a 50%+ increase in rainfall over Western USA to support growth.
Hats off to Tucson Water and the City of Tucson. Their code requiring compulsory greywater stubouts on new houses is a great start. They have much more work to do developing a framework and impleneting the policy but they are on their way.
This blog is about extending the concept of water harvesting from simply rainwater harvesting, to harvesting all the water across the home.
Rainwater is extremely valuable, especially as water utilities start raising the price of water to cope with infrastructure upgrades required now, not just the future.
Relying on rainwater alone to help reduce water consumption in the home is risky business (unless you live a cool, moist environment). Over 60% of water use in the average American home is in the garden, and rainwater collection (and storage) can help supply this water.
However if you live in an area that has rainfall for 6 months of the year, and dry for the remaining six months, relying on a rainwater harvesting system can be very expensive.
Lets say your garden area requires 3,000 gallons of water per month for irrigation. Lets assume you have a six month dry period (It could be worse – San Diego has a 9 month dry period).
To ensure garden water supply from rainwater harvesting alone, the tank / cistern would need 6 x 3,000 gallons, or 18,000 gallons capacity. Apart from the expense involved (many thousands of $$), tanks / cisterns this size require a huge area, and land is expensive.
So the purpose of this blog is to explore the many different methods of water harvesting, such as rainwater harvesting, graywater (also know as gray water, greywater and grey water) re-use, reclaimed water, alternate water supplies; and most importantly place these methods into the appropriate context.
I promise to be straightforward and forthright in this blog. Water politics is not just confined to America, it is a world-wide phenomenon.
Water is a vital resource, second only to air, and as a result is big money. Vested interests include (but aren’t limited to):
– Water Utilities / purveyors
– Water fixture manufacturers
– Water treatment manufacturers and irrigators
– Water re-use designers and manufacturers (be kind – I am one of these!)
– Environmental quality jurisdictions
– Federal / State / City / Country code officials, planning consultants, and inspectors
– Plumbers / irrigators / landscapers
– and the most important stake holder of all; YOU.
I now have over 7 years of water re-use experience in Australia, and 2 years experience here in the US – at local, state and federal levels. Based on what I have learnt so far, the challenges facing America far outweigh those experienced in Australia.
The water / money relationship is much bigger in the US, and the stakeholders above all recognise the issues are serious, they just havent worked out how to work together on it yet. It is likely they will not come to agreement willingly, after all money is involved.
In the end, YOU, the consumer of water will ultimately drive how water is delivered to your home, how much you will pay for it, how you will use it (and re-use it, hopefully over and over again). You may not have control over how much you pay per gallon for water supply and sewerage disposal, but you will be able to control how much you potable water you consume.
Of even more concern to the regulators, is that YOU also decide whether to adhere to codes after the house is built, and they know code violations are everywhere. A pragmatic approach would be to develop codes that were sensible to the typical consumer, or change core infrastructure to cope with code violations.
In future posts, I will provide examples of how pragmatic solutions are rarely, if ever, found in the water regulation industry.
This primary focus of this blog is to raise awareness of what can be done, and what the impediments are. But it would be stupid of me not to promote two of my websites:
To read more about rainwater harvesting vs graywater go to: http://www.besthomewatersavers.com/pages/Rainwater-Guide.html